The Role of Rosco Backdrops in Netflix’s Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street

MADOFF: The Monster of Wall Street revolves around the true story of Financier Bernie Madoff, who famously orchestrated one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in the history of Wall Street. In an article from Newsshooter Magazine, we learned about how Jeff Hutchens, the Director of Photography on the Netflix series, used a Rosco Rental Backdrop to create the background visuals for the project. Wanting to learn more, we followed up with Jeff who told us about his experience using a Rosco Backdrop for the first time, as well as the background techniques he used to incorporate Wall Street as a character into the story.

Establishing The Wall Street Aesthetics For The MADOFF Docuseries

Set in one of the world's most famous locations, Hutchens and Academy Award Nominee Director Joe Berlinger needed a background that would clearly sell the look of Manhattan. Because the story and characters of MADOFF were so intrinsically intertwined with Wall Street, the background itself needed to be treated as though it was a character in its own right. Initially, they considered filming in a real office location. However, they both soon realized the numerous technical difficulties that came with that decision. So, after factoring in the aesthetic and logistical considerations, it quickly became apparent that a physical backdrop was going to open up creative possibilities instead of limiting them. This led Hutchens and Berlinger to shoot the project on a stage instead of on location, and that is how the 20ft. high by 156ft. wide (6.1m x 47.5m) Rosco Rental Backdrop came into the picture.

The art file for the Manhattan street-view rental backdrop that was used to create the background visual for MADOFF: The Monster of Wall Street on Netflix.Rental Backdrop #C0397AL is a Manhattan street-view backdrop that was originally created for the 2008 feature film Doubt.

Cinematic Techniques From DP Jeff Hutchens

This series features interviews with the real-life individuals involved with the scheme who were on set with the actors who were re-creating the stories they were telling in the background. Due to the stylized look of the series, Hutchens needed to seamlessly blend the transitions from the documentary interviews to the recreated scenes while keeping the background in frame. Below, he shares some of the cinematic techniques he used to help sell this illusion.

Madoff BTS Rosco Backdrop

As this was your first time using a Rosco Backdrop, what made Rosco the right choice for this project?

JH: Madoff was a fixture on Wall Street and a key player in NYC's financial industry. To sell the scale of Madoff's whole enterprise we knew needed to see Manhattan outside the windows of his office (our stage) - we couldn't just cover the set windows with diffusion and blow them out and still have the sense of place that was so crucial to his story.

MADOFF Interview GIF

From the very early stages of production, we also knew that we wanted to create real-time, in-camera transitions that would take us fluidly from interviews lit as daytime to recreations lit as night and vice versa, which meant a need to pre-light both day and night looks simultaneously so we could seamlessly trigger lighting transitions timed to camera moves through our dimmer board. All of those factors informed our decision to surround the entire set with a 20’ x 156’ Rosco Backdrop.

In your interview with Newsshooter, you mention “the paradoxical amount of illumination” the backdrop needed to create a believable night look. Can you expand more on this?

JH: Front lighting the backdrop for daytime was relatively straightforward - in advance of the pre-light we correctly estimated the type and number of fixtures to give us the looks and illumination levels we were after. But our initial estimate for backlighting the drop for night left our “Manhattan” feeling a little too dimly lit to pass for a city that never sleeps.

Madoff Netflix Rosco Backdrops

We knew we’d make adjustments to the lighting order during the stage build and pre-light, so it was simply a matter of doubling our scoop lights on the backside of the drop to give us a more vibrant night feel. In addition to the scoop lights that we used for the backdrop, we also added some Dedos to selectively shine through certain “city windows” to give us a more believable range of varying light intensities, as well as some Skypanels to uplight the front of the backdrop acting as streetlights from below.

Madoff Netflix Rosco Backdrops Jh_4copy-2

In his interview with Newsshooter, Jeff also mentions a technique using miniblinds, which helped him mitigate any visual issues that arose using a rental drop. “Early on in prep, I asked our production designer for miniblinds on all our outward-facing set windows. I wanted the blinds to help break up our background and hide any imperfections we might otherwise see. We were exceptionally tight on space to fit both our stage build and the backdrop into our studio, so the backdrop was a few feet closer than ideal for selling the perspective and illusion. The miniblinds were crucial for breaking up the backdrop’s shape.”

Madoff Netflix Rosco Backdrops Jh_1 copy-2

Hutchens speaks more about his work on this series in the article ‘MADOFF: The Monster of Wall Street’ with DP Jeff Hutchens from Newsshooter Magazine. If you’d like to see the results of his cinematic style using the Rosco Backdrop, be sure to watch MADOFF: The Monster of Wall Street now on Netflix. To learn more about Jeff Hutchens and his work, please visit his website:, or follow him on Instagram at @jhutchphotofilm.

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Lacey Colter November 02, 2023 Questions?

About Lacey Colter

Marketing Manager - Film/TV/Broadcast: Lacey Colter has been working in the entertainment industry since 2015. She started in production before transitioning to a cinema lens manufacturer and now covers the film and television market for Rosco. She has spent years of her career interviewing a variety of industry professionals.